October 16, 2018

by on January 1, 2011

Canadvocate of the Year 2010

2010 was the year that Canada proved to the world that it is ready for its close up. Whether it was the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the G7 summit in Nunavut, the G8 summit in Muskoga, or the G20 summit in Toronto, throughout the year, Canada stood confidently front and center on the world stage. Coming as it did during critical shifts in the geo-political order, Canada’s face time gave Canada a global gravitas that will serve the country well as it transitions to the role of world leader.

As in 2009, Canada’s continued ascendancy was fueled primarily by the strength of its economy. Yet, in 2010 it became clear that there was more to Canada than just a sound banking system. With strong gains month after month over a broad range of economic indicators, Canada remained auspiciously above the fray as the global recession proved stubborn. Canada also sought new and key trade markets in 2010, most notably with India, the EU, Turkey, Ukraine and Colombia. Meanwhile, surging commodities prices through the year had the world turning its collective attention to Canada and its envious array of natural resources.

In February, the world convened for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. The Olympics provided exactly what Canada needed: an opportunity to introduce the world to a vibrant, strong and influential Canada. For many watching, it was their first, healthy dose of Canadian culture and patriotism. And NBC’s Tom Brokaw provided the masterstroke. The Olympic broadcaster’s homage to Canada, which aired immediately before the Opening Ceremonies, was a genuine love letter from the U.S. It detailed Canada’s proud history and heritage and extolled the country’s credibility and capability. After that video, it will be hard to argue that any future leadership effort by Canada should not have America’s all-important imprimatur.

The United States in particular ends 2010 with a keen awareness of Canada’s influence. At both G20 meetings this year, a marginalized U.S. was left jaw agape as member countries rejected American-style global stimulus and adopted Canadian-style austerity measures. Also, when not-so-friendly neighbors Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Chile showed increased defiance of U.S. policy, America watched and learned as Canada took the lead in creating stronger ties with South America.

Even diplomatic pit bull Hillary Clinton was forced to acknowledge Canada’s increasing upper hand over the Lower 48. In April, the Secretary of State ruffled feathers when she delivered a barrage of Canadian criticism regarding Afghanistan, Arctic Sovereignty, and G8 initiatives. By November, Clinton’s tone had softened considerably as she resigned to the Realpolitik and enthusiastically embraced a proposed Oil Sands pipeline. It was the year’s best example of America’s attitude adjustment toward Canada.

Finally, near year’s end, Wikileaks revealed that shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, aides had advised the new President that Canada and Canadians were plagued with self-esteem problems. By late 2010 though, when the remarks were leaked, the characterization seemed so outdated that it served only to underscore just how far and how fast Canada had come.

Which brings us to the Canadvocate of the Year for 2010. The Canadvocate of the Year award is given to the person or persons whose efforts and conduct through the past year contributed the most to elevating Canada’s position and influence in the world. This year, there are two Canadvocates: Former Governor General Michaelle Jean and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

Michaelle Jean

It is ironic that the Canadian who this year exemplified Canada’s rise as a future leading power did so while occupying a position that is a vestige of both Canada’s past and of superpowers of old. Governor General Michaelle Jean spent 2010 successfully showing the world that, unlike the Imperial and American Centuries that preceded it, the Canadian Century will be one marked by global alliances and commitment to ever pressing humanitarian issues. Throughout 2010, Ms. Jean confirmed Canada’s reputation among the world’s nations as a qualified and passionate leader devoted to a 21st Century global ideal.

In January, a horrible earthquake devastated Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. The resulting relief effort was referred to as the first global response to the first global crisis by the new global community. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Ms. Jean, it can also be called Canada’s finest hour.  Ms. Jean was key in rallying Canadians to provide swift and massive aid to Haiti. As a result of those efforts, Canadians were among the largest per capita contributors of aid to Haiti. Ms. Jean emerged as the face of the global community’s response.

In April, Ms. Jean traveled to the Congo and neighboring African nations. Canada’s conservative government had previously burned bridges in the area by diverting aid away from Africa and by waffling in response to UN peacekeeping requests. Ms. Jean’s trip was highly publicized and she succeeded in bringing much needed attention to human rights abuses in the region.

She also became one of the first western officials to publicly acknowledge Central Africa’s vast potential and to encourage the region to become an influential contributor to global affairs. This contrasted sharply with a U.S. diplomat’s contemporaneous remarks, which focused on military responses to rebel resistance in and around the Congo. While the traditional powers seemed stuck on 20th Century solutions, Ms. Jean provided Africa with a 21st Century vision.

At home, Ms. Jean remained committed to fostering national unity and continued her efforts to bring Aboriginal communities within the Canadian fold. She also managed to deftly handle a second prorogation crisis. By the time Ms. Jean stepped down in October to become UN Special Envoy to Haiti, she had transformed and transcended the traditional Governor General role. She showed the world just what a new global leader looks like. Canada was lucky to have her.

Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan

Whereas Ms. Jean gave the world a glimpse of Canada as benevolent leader, Premier Brad Wall showed the world this year that Canada also plays hardball. Specifically, Premier Wall was responsible for convincing the Canadian government to block the $40 billion acquisition of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan by Australian company BHP Billiton. In so doing, the Premier assured that Canada would no longer be seen by other nations as being ripe for the plucking.

Premier Wall’s accomplishment was not an easy one. In February, the Harper Government gave its Speech from the Throne in which it announced to foreign investors that Canada was open for business. The conservatives had already made changes to the Investment Canada Act making it easier for foreign corporations to invest in Canadian industry. These included such previously sacrosanct industries as airlines, uranium, telecommunications and broadcasting. Prior to BHP’s bid, the Harper government had never met a foreign investor it did not like. The only previous rejection, the 2008 proposed purchase of MacDonald Dettwiler by U.S based Alliant Techsystems, was blocked on national security grounds.

With respect to the Potash Corp. takeover, Premier Wall downplayed the traditional argument about whether or not the foreign purchase provided Canada with a “net economic benefit.” Instead, the Premier emphasized the strategic importance of Potash, a critical resource used in fertilizers, and Canada’s status as the single largest holder of potash reserves on the planet.

In successfully framing the argument this way, Premier Wall transformed how Canada’s natural resources will be categorized in the future. After 2010, key Canadian assets, including potash, uranium, gold, oil, natural gas, water, and even land, will be considered instruments of Canada’s national security that simply cannot be bought.

Brad Wall’s stance in protecting Potash Corp. also served to start a national conversation about how ultimately Canada will use and allocate these important Canadian assets. While it remains to be decided what Canada should do with its ample natural resources, for now, it has adopted Premier Wall’s suggestion: Canada will protect them at all cost.

Happy New Year from The Canadvocate!

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Comments: 1

  1. by TomSC on January 4, 2011

    National Post named the killer Russell Wiliams and Justin Bieber as their Canadian newsmakers of the year. I like your choices better.

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